Note: Summary: The connection between philosophy and science is sometimes strained, but
any two observers are subjective in nature. A position of objective reality needs a third party.
For some time now, quantum mechanics has been feeling a certain type of buzz concerning objective reality. The purpose of starting this essay with Sartre's novel, "Nausea," is to point out what is being tossed around today in the scientific world of quantum mechanics. Eugene Wigner (1902-1995), who won a Nobel Prize in physics, wondered about a separate reality concerning the famous quantum paradox of the cat in the box. Most people know it as the cat being dead or the cat being alive, but not knowing anything until the box is opened. Therefore, the cat would be both dead and alive without knowing, which is a superposition. That, Wigner said, is fine when you have only one observer, but he wondered what would happen if you had a friend on the inside of the box who could witness the events therein. It appeared that there would be no objective reality, since the two friends would have a different perception. In truth, Sartre was examining the same thing, whereas he could be certain only of his own involvement in the world around him. The person next to him might have a totally different perception, even if not inside of a box with a cat.
*****Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), the french writer and philosopher, published numerous works which dealt with the anguish of our accidental existence in a universe filled with lifeless objects. He was one of the existentialists who tried to bring forth the common person's interpretation of reality. This is, in essence, the meaning of existentialism, that we exist on a personal level by observation and understanding, rather than being a part of a large group of humans who are the center of the universe itself.
The novel "Nausea" is an example of an ordinary man who perceives, and this perception is what leads him through life, knowing that he is not always sure of where he is heading.
It begins as a diary, after some "undated pages," which belongs to Antoine Roquentin, the protagonist of the work.
It is important to quote a portion of Sartre's work here at the beginning, Monday, 29 January, 1932.
"For instance, there is something new about my hands, a certain way of picking up my pipe and fork. Or else it's the fork which now has a certain way of having itself picked up, I don't know. A little while ago, just as I was coming into my room, I stopped short because I felt in my hand a cold object which held my attention through a sort of personality. I opened my hand, looked: I was simply holding a door knob."
That brief passage demonstrates the confusion of existence, at least for the character in question, because he claims in an earlier passage that something has happened to him, that something has changed.
What has changed is his perception.
The purpose of starting this essay with Sartre's novel is to point out what is being tossed around today in the scientific world of quantum mechanics.
Eugene Wigner (1902-1995), who won a Nobel Prize in physics, wondered about a separate reality concerning the famous quantum paradox of the cat in the box. Most people know it as the cat being dead or the cat being alive, but not knowing anything until the box is opened. Therefore, the cat would be both dead and alive without knowing, a superposition.
That, Wigner said, is fine when you have only one observer, but he wondered what would happen if you had a friend on the inside of the box who could witness the events therein. It appeared that there would be no objective reality, since the two friends would have a different perception.
In truth, Sartre was examining the same thing, whereas he could be certain only of his own involvement in the world around him. The person next to him might have a totally different perception, even if not inside of a box with a cat.
If you wanted to make a motion picture using the terms of existentialism, however, it would require three points of view, not just two.
Let us have Alice and Bob be the two actors in the motion picture, and we could cut back and forth between them to demonstrate the different perceptions that they have. When Alice views Bob, she sees only what she wants to see. Meanwhile, Bob sees only what he wants to see when he sees Alice.
The audience in the theater, however, is the third point of view, since the camera cannot keep bouncing back and forth between two viewpoints without the motion picture losing meaning. There has to be an objective reality, that being the audience in the theater who can see both of them in a "two shot" at the kitchen table.
Therefore, the audience can see how the two people interact objectively, and gain meaning to the story, but intercut in the motion picture are shots where only Alice or Bob perceives the other.
So, this would demand an objective reality by way of a third party.
I can confuse matters here with something I myself did in 1985, although the principle I developed is purely mathematical and it does not propose a separate reality.
In mathematics we have numbers, which in and of themselves may be entirely meaningless, but there may be meaning in some connection, the relationships between the numbers, not the numbers themselves.
The "Principle of Mathematical Context" states clearly that your solution is governed by your context, which means that there is no true solution, but rather a contextual solution based on your examination. In other words, how you examine something in numbers has something to do with the outcome. In the end, you must simply discover these things and throw out what is not provable or acceptable.
This principle can even be extended to measurements themselves.
How long is the piece of wood?
It depends on the precision of the instrument which measures it. Is it 4.1 feet, or 4.12 feet, or 4.123 feet?
Which would be the true answer?
The true answer does not really exist.
The context of your examination will determine what your answer is.
This does not, however, propose that there is no objective reality, because it is a principle simply of numbers.
The reality of the construction worker is universal to his crew.
Measure twice, cut once, as they say, but all measure using the same instrument.
For the construction crew, there really is an objective reality, and that is the house which they build.
Finally, we come to Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who almost became a religion in the 1920s because of his theory of relativity, both the special and the general kind. Special relativity is based on the principles of light in conjunction with a system at relative rest and one in motion, where Einstein says both observers should gain the same answer, despite their separate positions. General relativity is simply his theory of gravity, where he states that gravity is the result of curved space.
There is no curved space, but the abstraction works, and this is what confused many people many years ago.
The space surrounding an object is said to be curved because of the fact that all things fall in perpendicular fashion towards the center of this object, that being the planet or star. Therefore, since we have a system below us, everything we do is aimed at it. Thus, the abstraction works.
The reason Einstein is mentioned, despite being opposed somewhat to quantum mechanics, is because his principles were also extended to mean that all things are relative to some other thing. In part, this is most likely true, but it cannot possibly be tested. Although there are many points of relativity that have been proved accurate, there are still some things which stand out as unable to be reconciled. For example, there is a large discrepancy between quantum gravity and general relativity which has stood for quite some time.
Nevertheless, in relativity we can compare two observers, and Einstein says that this relationship between the two is invariant.
This may be true when both are in some state of similar existence, either in motion or at relative rest, but it is not true in other situations.
If one man was riding a train while another man watched from a hill, and the train exploded because someone had placed a bomb upon it, there is no way that the results of perception could be invariant. They would not be similar at all, whereas the train, and the man upon it, would be destroyed. This perception of destruction is in no way similar to the perception of the man who observes it.
Einstein's own famous example of another train and two observers also states that one man on a hill sees simultaneous lightning strikes, but the man on the train does not, and could not.
This now brings us back to Sartre and Wigner, who both wonder about the perception of two beings, Sartre in handling a door knob aware only of the door knob and oblivious to anyone else in the room, and the man outside the box not knowing what the man inside the box can see.
The question is whether this is philosophical or scientific.
If the question is philosophical it is dependent only upon perception.
If the question is scientific then the answer can be attained in some quantitative manner.
An objective reality in philosophy would seem to demand some neutral observer, like in the motion picture which was proposed for Alice and Bob.
In science, the first question of how to judge objective reality is how and where to place the third party observer.
In truth, each observer is subjective, and while not directly related to my principle of numbers, allows for a preference in either observation or measurement.
Wigner's test may be lacking the most important ingredient.
As far as the original example of the cat in the box, it all started with Einstein anyway.
Einstein was perplexed by what Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961) had proposed. He was staring at a graph which was, to him, continuous, and he wondered out loud why it was an issue of either-or. Therefore, he wrote to Schrodinger and said, "Ist mir wurst," roughly translated as this is meaningless to me. He said if you had a barrel of gunpowder, you are stating it is a little bit exploded here and more exploded here. How can it be either-or?
Schrodinger responded with the famous cat in the box example, where a cat would be either dead or alive based on a radioactive pellet which would be released under the terms of probability. The cat had a 50/50 chance of being dead or alive, but Einstein would not know because the box had a lid on it and he could not see the cat.
Einstein never accepted that.
Einstein actually claimed that the mathematicians had ruined science, and he did not accept quantum mechanics.
In his famous paper written with his two assistants, Einstein claimed that quantum mechanics was an incomplete theory. He demanded that a theory fulfill certain requirements. For every point in nature, a point in your theory. For every point in your theory, a point in nature.
He did not like what he called a spooky action at a distance, because it dictated that you would find the answer regardless of where the two particles (Alice and Bob) were. In an either-or situation, when you know one, you must know the other.
Yet, if you did not know either, when you finally find out about one, you still know the other, even if separated by great distance.
Since 1935, that has always been the issue, but Einstein never really accepted quantum mechanics, even when a famous muon experiment needed relativity to demonstrate how many muons survived in their descent into our atmosphere.
In that experiment, an observer on a moving muon was set against an observer on the ground, and only relativity got the same answer of surviving muons for both observers, at least when the Einstein factor was a 5.
This, of course, is where Einstein stood, but the process of calculation for being invariant was valid only at 98% of the speed of light.
If that is true, than once again we have a problem, and we are back at the drawing board to assume a separate reality unless we have 98% of the speed of light.
To remain in the realm of science, rather than philosophy, and separate from mere numbers, one would have to conclude that any objective reality, or judgment thereof, would have to be completely separate from the two observers. Otherwise, each is subjective, and the world is based on their own perceptions.
Therefore, Wigner's test is incomplete.
Furthermore, no test can be complete unless there is a universal observer, although I do not want to mention any deity. The very meaning of objective reality addresses the fact of multiple beings, and therefore we must have one neutral observer among us.
END OF ARTICLE
Mr. J.V. Presogna is the author of "An Extension of Relativity" and "The Principle of Mathematical Context." Navigating to the "Science" page on this web site will introduce you to his original work in photons, neutrinos, gravitons, and other phenomena. He is at this time trying to gain a joint grant with a university to pursue additional work.